The sustainable technology that transformed Doña Elia’s kitchen in Oaxaca is awarded at COP28 | Future America

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For four years, neither Mrs. Elia Pérez González nor her daughters have had to include fetching water from the spring among their chores. Before they went twice a day and carried 20 liters on their backs for ten minutes. “It wasn’t that much, but it’s ten minutes in which you feel very good at home doing other things,” this Mexican coffee producer shyly jokes. Cooking on his new two-burner stove doesn’t fill his house with wood smoke either. And their tortillas haven’t had a smoky flavor in a while. Trips to the market are also much fewer since they learned to cultivate herbs, lettuce and chilies conscientiously. Sustainable technology changed the life of this Oaxacan woman and that of a large part of her community. What she is most grateful for, she says, is the time she saves. “It has changed our lives. We are thinking about the following: water sanitation processes,” she says.

For Pérez, there is never enough time. This 55-year-old woman is a single mother of two young people and mayor of the community of Zaragoza, in the Mexican municipality of Santa María Yucuhiti, in the State of Oaxaca. 130 families live there, almost all of them dependent on coffee and other crops. Life in rural areas has not always been easy. The house, the upbringing, the work… “No one looks at the countryside,” she says. And she corrects: “Almost no one.” Those who did do so were the group Meeting Space of Native Cultures, founded by Tzinnia Carranza López, to link the traditions and ancestors of nine indigenous peoples such as the Chontales of Tabasco, Mixtecs and Zapotecs of the Isthmus, among others.

Although the project began as a market or market where to buy and sell local and small productions, little by little Carranza realized that it was not enough; that we had to go to the root of the problems of food producers. And the knot where everything came together had a lot to do with warming and how it affected crops and the daily lives of Mexicans. Thus they decided to start an organization that would advise on how to improve crop production processes, guide the restoration of watersheds, create dry toilets and even recover mangroves. “The hydrometeorological effects were increasingly affecting the life of the communities. “We started working on local mitigation and adaptation based on what they need,” says the Mexican.

An energy-saving stove built with the support of the NGO Espacio de Encuentro de la Culturas Originarias.
An energy-saving stove built with the support of the NGO Espacio de Encuentro de la Culturas Originarias.EECO

Dry bathrooms, cisterns to store water, backyard gardens or “saving stoves,” as Doña Elia calls them. Ecotechniques, all these instruments developed to efficiently use natural and material resources, have been the salvation of those who have been watching the wolf of climate change for years. “Our philosophy is that information becomes knowledge,” adds Carranza. “Everything we do is participatory and with co-responsibility between the beneficiaries and us.”

This initiative and the NGO’s efforts to create new and useful capacities between food producers and rural inhabitants have led them to win the Local Adaptation award, organized by the Global Center for Adaptation (GCA). . During its time at COP 28, held in Dubai, the jury highlighted the work scheme and respect for communities. First, a diagnosis is drawn up and, based on that, initiatives are carried out to reduce the vulnerability of the populations, explains Carranza. “We make technological innovation but on a local scale and adapted to the conditions and materials of the place,” she adds. “With the training they receive, they do not require external technologies.”

This organization was selected among 500 candidates and will receive 15,000 euros to invest in future activities. “We are excited to follow the winners’ journeys over the next year and beyond. We want to see how they use the money and sponsorship opportunities from the Adaptation Fund to develop and expand their work,” said Professor Patrick Verkooijen, executive director of the Global Adaptation Centre, in a statement.

One in four Latin Americans does not have water

The convenience of turning on the tap and letting water come out, having more than one fire in the kitchen, not worrying about collecting firewood for cooking or airing out the smoke house after doing so is not everyday life in a large part of Latin America. On the continent, one in four people does not have adequate access to drinking water and 431 million (7 out of 10) do not have a safely managed sanitation service.

Residents of Santa María Yucuhiti pose next to a newly built energy-saving stove.
Residents of Santa María Yucuhiti pose next to a newly built energy-saving stove.EECO

Constant advice has been key to the success of the project. Mrs. Elia says that they have provided both the raw materials and the money. “And whenever we have a problem, they help us. It is changing the entire community, we would like the project to continue. There are many more things to improve,” she acknowledges. The first thing that comes to mind is the need to pour gray water and not black water into the river. About 40 families live on the banks and each one pours untreated water from the shower, sink and kitchen. “We cannot do that to the animals that depend on water or to our neighbors below. Thank God we have water, but we cannot abuse or mistreat it.”

To achieve this, the community has a pilot plan underway that consists of treating dirty water in three processes. A first one that removes the fats, another barrel that recycles the waste and a last one that filters and purifies the water thanks to gravel, sand, horsetail and papyrus. “Right now we are testing it, but I hope it works and we can apply it. We can do so many things well…” he concludes.

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